The Board of Governors of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education today unanimously selected Robert M. Pignatello, a senior vice president at Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY), to be the next president of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, effective July 1. Mr. Pignatello will be presented to the university community—including students, faculty, staff, alumni and others—during a welcoming reception to be held at 10 a.m., April 11, at the University Commons Amphitheater.
Mr. Pignatello has more than 20 years experience as a college senior executive and administrator. He has served as Hunter College’s senior vice president for finance and administration and chief operating officer since February 2016.
“Mr. Pignatello is a seasoned leader with experiences from both inside and outside of higher education,” said Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia D. Shapira. “His tremendous list of accomplishments throughout his career speaks for itself. We are confident he will provide Lock Haven University outstanding leadership as it continues to advance its mission of serving students, the Lock Haven community and the Commonwealth.”
Hunter College is a flagship university of the CUNY system, with 23,000 students and an annual operating budget of $169 million. As senior vice president and COO, Mr. Pignatello oversees the college’s financial planning and budget, business services, human resources, technology services, facilities, public safety, space planning and capital projects, performing arts facilities, continuing education and non-degree enrollment.
“Lock Haven is a special place that is on the right trajectory, and I’m confident that Rob is uniquely equipped to take the university to the next level,” said State System Interim Chancellor Dr. Karen M. Whitney. “He is joining the State System at an exciting time as we focus on student success and ensure that we are best organized to prepare students for the future. He will be a great addition to both Lock Haven University and the State System.”
Mr. Pignatello said he is honored to have been selected to serve as Lock Haven’s next president and looks forward to assuming the role.
“Lock Haven is a truly remarkable institution, and we have an exciting future before us. Together, we will confront the challenges that lie ahead and convert them into opportunities to even better serve our students and our region,” said Mr. Pignatello.
“I greatly anticipate working closely with the council of trustees, students, faculty, alumni, local leaders and System officials on fulfilling our vital mission. I am immensely proud to be a Bald Eagle and to join the Lock Haven community.”
The Board’s action today comes at the conclusion of a national search for a successor to Dr. Michael Fiorentino, who will retire at the end of the month after serving as Lock Haven’s president for nearly seven years. Dr. Donna Wilson, the university’s provost, will serve as interim president until Mr. Pignatello’s arrival on campus.
“We welcome Rob Pignatello to ‘The Haven’ family,” said Council of Trustees Chair George Durrwachter. “His unique approach to higher education issues showed a great deal of depth and breadth to meet the needs of Lock Haven University. Mr. Pignatello’s experience and leadership skills will be invaluable as he transitions to the 15th presidency. I look forward to working with him to continue to tell our story and unlock the potential of our future.”
Council member Guy Graham, who chaired the presidential search committee, said he was impressed throughout the search process with the quality of candidates presented by search consultant RPA, Inc., and the diligence of the committee.
“We were tasked, through the feedback of the campus community, to find a president who could capably address enrollment and fiscal challenges, lead fundraising efforts and work with our many, various constituent groups,” Graham said. “Mr. Pignatello demonstrated to the campus that he understands the essential educational components at Lock Haven University and that he will be student-centered.”
Mr. Pignatello has a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from Montclair State University (N.J.) and a Master of Public Administration from Rutgers University. He expects to complete work this year on a Doctor of Education degree in higher education leadership and management at Saint Peter’s University in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Prior to his arrival at Hunter College, Mr. Pignatello spent 18 years as vice president and ultimately senior vice president and chief operating officer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, also part of the CUNY system. While there, he worked with faculty leadership on a variety of task forces and committees to help transform John Jay to a senior college focused on baccalaureate degrees, graduate studies, and research while improving the overall student experience, engagement and outcomes.
Mr. Pignatello also helped to develop and successfully implement the college’s strategic plan by aligning resources with objectives and creating strategies and accountability for outcomes. His efforts also included improving academic and student services, expanding shared governance and engagement, raising new revenues, fostering alliances with external groups, and reducing the costs of textbooks through a virtual store that became a system model. His tenure at John Jay began in 1994, as director of government, alumni affairs, and communications, and senior adviser to the president. He also served as an adjunct instructor in the public administration master’s program.
Previously, Mr. Pignatello was a council member, deputy mayor and mayor of the Township of Verona (N.J.); an administrator in the Essex County Sheriff’s Department in Newark; and a legislative assistant in the New Jersey State Senate.
Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania has a current enrollment of about 3,900 students. It offers 49 undergraduate majors and 47 minors, as well as graduate programs in actuarial science, counseling, education, health science and sport studies. It was founded in 1870 as the Central State Normal School, with the mission of training teachers for Central Pennsylvania. It became a university in 1983, upon the creation of the State System.
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